Author Archives: SheilaK

About SheilaK

I am one of the most computer illiterate people you'll likely meet on a Blog site but here goes anyway! I am 61, retired from a busy career in social work, and about to set off on a journey of a lifetime with my husband Mike. Originally from St. Andrews, Scotland, I can't wait to see what the Big Lap, Australia, has in store for us as we pootle around it in a motor home for the next 12 months!

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Don’t let the title put you off – the “good” accounts for over 95% of this week’s adventures here in Western Australia. Today in particular has been a really fantastic day that just kind of happened in an unplanned kind of way. The loose plan had been to visit a couple of wineries around Donnybrook – a place most Australians have never even heard of even though it lays claim to the following:
1. It is the home of the Granny Smith apple and where Lady Williams apples were developed.
2. It is famous for its sandstone which has been used to face a number of high profile buildings across the state.
3. It has the largest free fun park for children in Australia.

So here we are in this little big town killing a few days so we don’t get to our Christmas destination too quickly. Mike does his usual homework to see what cycle tracks, walking trails and producers of alcoholic beverages are within easy reach and decides today we’ll visit a couple of boutique wineries (just for a change)! We cycle up a very steep hill to Barton Jones’s Cellar Door only to find it no longer opens on a Monday. It changed hands a couple of weeks ago and the new owners have decided to only open Friday to Sunday. Never mind, says the lady owner, as soon as my husband gets here with the keys we can open up and serve you something to drink and eat if you’ll just bare with us. So glad we did. We were there for a good two hours sampling incredible wines and hearing how Preeti (an anaesthetist from Reading, Berkshire) and hubby Brad came to be owners of this amazing vineyard. The Cellar Door is literally a house built of straw bales, covered in limestone and the views outside where we sat and had lunch were lush. Lunch was quickly rustled up and included yummy local cured meats, sheep’s milk brie, home made humous, chutney, olives and extra scrummy sun dried tomatoes. We added three more bottles to our Christmas wine cellar – a white, a rose and a red!

Just prior to the weekend where it rained on and off for two whole days, we had several scorching hot days in Busselton. Strange as it may sound, for the first time ever this trip, I actually felt as though I was on holiday! Most of the time we rock up in a new place, go adventuring (!!!), do a bit of shopping and laundry and then move on. The Caravan Park we stayed at in Busselton was very quiet (no kids or pets) and it had a beautiful swimming pool with sun loungers that were all unoccupied (no Germans!!!). I spent two afternoons lolling around, taking the odd dip in the solar heated pool (it was actually too hot) and did some Christmas beading. It was wonderful. We also did a long cycle ride one day and ended up at a gorgeous beach where I stripped off and went for a swim. Don’t worry, I had my cossie with me! There was a conveniently located wooden bench for Mike which had a carved out bit with instructions to “Place Cold Beer Here” and a bottle opener fixed to the arm rest! So Aussie.

Son-in-law Ben promised us mango trees growing by the sides of the road all over Australia. No sign of that here but we are enjoying the local cherries which are a big thing out here at Christmas time and the Jacaranda trees are now in full bloom. All very pretty.

Not so pretty are the make-overs some fences and trees get whether it be underwear or soft toys. Today it was gruesome looking teddies that adorned the fence round the sandstone quarry. Why spoil this lovely countryside I ask?

The not so good story of the week was the wee problem we had with our freezer door. Mike went to get me an ice cube for my gin and tonic and he couldn’t get the door open. Sought advice from the RV dealership and Facebook Groups and in the end had to do a 300 kilometre round trip to a specialist service agent who diagnosed the problem, took over an hour to prise the freezer door open and removed the broken travel lock. A new part has been ordered and we should get this fitted in the New Year at a repair shop more local to where we’ll be staying. Meantime freezer is still working (ice cubes for me, Magnum ice creams for Mike) and gaffer tape keeps the door shut tight while we’re pootling along.

Cape to Cape

This week we’ve been in the bottom left hand corner of Australia – the most south westerly part of the mainland before turning the corner and heading north up the west coast. The Cape to Cape Walking Trail runs for 123 kilometres between the lighthouses at Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste. We visited both lighthouses but did the journey by car, stopping for several days in Margaret River and Gracetown en route.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is the tallest mainland lighthouse in Australia. It was certainly worth the effort of climbing the 176 steps to the top as the views out over the ocean were fantastic. This is where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet and we couldn’t have chosen a better day to see the impact.

Augusta, the town closest to Cape Leeuwin has an amazing new harbour. I suppose if you spend $36.4 million you should expect to see a marked difference between the old and the new!

Margaret River came highly recommended by friends as being really pretty. It was a place that grew on us as we got away from the touristy town centre and explored some of the gorgeous river trails, nearby beaches and fabulous wineries. Our Caravan Park was right by the river and this cheeky chappie kept Mike company whilst he was outside barbequing dinner! The Park Run followed the river but it got quite hilly in places so no PBs. Thankfully this week’s Park Run at Busselton promises to be a flat course.

We rocked up to the Christmas Carol event in the local park at Margaret River. Little did we know that everyone else came loaded down with chairs, rugs, food hampers and bottles of wine!!! We found a patch of grass and stayed for about an hour listening to Hark the Herald Angels Sing and that other well known Christmas Carol, Jingle Bells!

Carols in the Park

Carols in the Park, Margaret River

The Margaret River region could do with taking a leaf out of South Australia’s book when it comes to bike trails, but we did not let this deter us when it came to checking out their wineries. We only visited four wineries and one distillery (not all in the same day!) and would have to acknowledge they grow some mighty fine grapes down here. Mike was particularly chuffed that he got to Xanadu but there was no duet with Olivia Newton-John (some of you will be too young to remember, but in 1980 she performed the song Xanadu. She’s perhaps better known for her duet in Grease with John Travolta)! McHenry Hohnen winery was all organic so we bought wine and free range sausages, Bethany’s was all French so we bought wine and nougat and at Madfish the only fish we could see were swimming in a pond outside so stuck with the wine.

We’ve visited some more lovely beaches this week. The most ‘crowded’ have been those that attract the surfer dudes and boy did we see some fabulous surfing going on. Son-in-law Ben is going to love it when he gets here in a fortnight!

Two signs you’re not likely to see back home caught our attention. Only four salmon!

This week has also been special because I got to celebrate my birthday as a summer baby. The day started with an amazing natural spa at Yallingup. This place used to be a well kept secret but there were a few other people there besides us. I was the only one brave enough to go right in – and it was simply amazing. After this I went off for a relaxing Swedish massage where Tara worked her magic on my knots. Dinner could only ever be seafood washed down with a very delicious white wine.

Biggest surprise on my birthday was receiving a bouquet of flowers. My daughter had found out from Mike where we were staying and arranged a delivery of my favourite, yellow roses – or lemon sorbet yellow roses! Who needs a vase when you’ve got a perfectly respectable loo brush holder!

Lemon Sorbet Yellow Roses

My Favourite!

Tuning in to Nature

It all started with an innocently titled book called ‘Australian Birds’ which son-in-law Ben kindly gifted Mike as we set off on our journey (I got a head torch which I’m looking forward to using sometime!). We have not taken up ornithology, and the photos leave a lot to be desired, but we are now recognising some of the bird song native to Australia. Bill Oddie eat your heart out.

The Kookaburra’s loud laughing call is very distinguishable, as is the “zit, zit, zit” song of the White Cockatoo and the “Mjerp, Mjerp” of the New Holland Honeyeater. A few weeks back at Two People’s Bay we heard the Noisy Bird but didn’t actually see it and we’re still looking out for the White Breasted Robin which is common in South Western Australia. Our old nemisis, the Magpie, appears to have now stopped swooping but has taken up tap dancing on our camper van roof instead!

The area we have been staying in this week is called the Southern Forests. We haven’t been able to see the wood for the trees! Less cycling this week and a lot more walking. One day it involved a 16 km hike along the Bibbulmun Track to the Giant Tingle Tree. This is a huge fire-hollowed red tingle tree with a circumference of 73 feet. It is the largest known living red tingle, or eucalypt, in the world and was pretty impressive

Giant Tingle Tree

Giant Tingle Tree, Walpole

We stayed over in Shannon National Park where hot showers were a Do It Yourself affair (we didn’t)!

We followed forest trails and now know our Karri Oaks from our Jarrah trees. Shannon Dam was very peaceful especially since no fishing is currently being allowed as its part of an ecological study.

Whilst conscious that I included photos of wild flowers in my last blog, I couldn’t resist a few more taken during a lovely walk through Kondil Wildflower Park in Nannup. There are over 8,000 species of wildflower in bloom across the region – here are just four. Isn’t nature incredibly beautiful?

We continue to buy local produce whenever we can and this week it included award winning chunky meat pies at Pemberton and avocados and mangoes at Nannup’s Saturday Market. Lemons can still be picked up free of charge at some campsites and non-grocery outlets! Christmas decorations are starting to go up and these two made us smile!

Christmas Decorations Aussie Style

Christmas Decorations Aussie Style

More Aussie Style Christmas Decorations

Christmas Decorations Outside Nannup Police Station!


We are most definitely front seat passengers on this roller coaster ride around Australia! What a ride; what a country! Our whole trip could be described as the WOW Trail. This week we have cycled the Wilderness Ocean Walk (aka WOW Trail), cruised down Denmark River, swum at Greens Pool, walked through the Tree Tops in the Valley of the Giants and learnt the secrets of sandalwood oil extraction at Mount Romance!

After eating Anzac biscuits at the Anzac Centre in Albany, we had to have Danish pastries in Denmark. Mind you, just behind where this photo was taken we spotted a boat with a rather unusual name. Back home on the River Thames we often pass a boat named “Yes Dear” – somehow we don’t think Queenie would be quite so happy having this one moored up alongside her at Windsor Castle!

Fish and chips were served up on the Denmark River Cruise as well as sightings of osprey in the wild and a beautiful sunset.

Ocean Beach was pretty special and those two happy and relaxed individuals are indeed us. A little further on we stopped for coffee and just looking around us we found all these wild flowers – no idea what they are called although one looks a bit like a geranium!

So Relaxed!

Relaxed and Happy

The WOW Trail is undulating, to say the least, and so our electric bikes came in handy for getting up some of the steep inclines and escaping snakes. Saw a huge one but didn’t stop for a photo.

The Elephant Rocks and Green Pools at William Bay National Park were worth a visit and I was pleasantly surprised that the water really wasn’t that cold once I got in!

There was a suggestion from one of our avid blog followers that we should make our way to the Jungle where “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” is currently being televised. Well, the big news is there were two new contestants this week!

We enjoyed our Tree Top Walk in the Valley of the Giants where we were 40 metres up into the forest canopy. We also walked through the trees at ground level where a 400 year old tree has been named Grandma Tingle because of her gnarled and wrinkled appearance!

Today marks the end of four months on the road. After month one’s disgraceful expenditure statistics, we decided not to put ourselves through public humiliation each month disclosing our alco-frolic tendancies!!! For those who may be remotely interested, our average weekly budget is coming in at around $800 (£450) excluding phone and insurance premiums and we are getting around 24 miles to the gallon (8.5 kms per litre). We have cycled over 1,500 kms on our bikes and driven over 9,500 kms. Margaret River is on the horizon as well as my birthday and Christmas with the McGregors – exciting times!

National Treasure

The first National Treasure grabbing our attention this week has been the National Parks here in Western Australia. There are over a hundred if you count in the Marine Parks, Nature Reserves and Conservation Parks and so we thought it worthwhile to invest in an annual all parks pass. The permit is not needed when we’re cycling but we drove through and camped at Stirling Ranges National Park and stopped off at several places in Porongurup National Park. It won’t take us long to break even as we plan to visit many more over the coming months.

Walking was to have been the main focus of our stay but unfortunately Mike’s hiking boots gave him nasty blisters on the 4 km walk in to Toolbrunup Peak’s base camp so we didn’t actually manage the climb. Next day, however, wearing his trusty Skechers the climb to the Granite Skywalk at the top of Castle Rock was easy peasy. Not so easy peasy for me though – I haven’t got a great head for heights and the last part of the climb required me to scramble over rocks hanging on to strategically placed metal hoops and climbing a ladder to the suspended walkway. I gave up on my first attempt and let Mike go on ahead. Whilst waiting for him to come back I started talking to a couple of woman who were older (and a good bit heftier) than me and when I heard they had done it I gritted my teeth and decided to give it another go. Success – maybe not quite as challenging as the Cat’s Spine in Iceland, but still had my heart racing!

The Caravan Park at Porongurup (pronounced Prong-Grup) sold beautiful avocado pears and free range eggs which we took away with us and instead dined at the Karri On Bar right next door. No prizes for guessing what Mike had – I had their mini hamburgers in brioche buns with the most delicious barbeque sauce.

Karri On Bar

Right Next to our Caravan Park

Weather has been quite wet and windy this week. We’ve got soaked through twice whilst out cycling and I was most put out to have to pay $2 to tumble dry clothes that had been dry before the rain caught us out! Still they had gone through a full hour’s wash cycle that only cost us $2 compared to the usual $4 charged at most caravan parks. Two People’s Bay was not at its best but makes a change from all the sunny beach photos!

Throughout this blog I try and keep the dialogue entertaining and informative. I make no apologies for the fact that the next newsworthy item is serious stuff and therefore there will be no funnies. The National Anzac Centre in Albany is a National Treasure and is a must see for anyone visiting this area.

It is set within a huge parkland reserve overlooking the very location from which the first and second convoy of ships left Australia bound for the Great War carrying over 41,000 Australians and New Zealanders and 13,000 horses. A third of the men and women never made it back and only two special horses returned. The exhibition creates a really deep connection with the past and I was particularly moved by the water feature that continuously runs through the names of all those who left on the convoys. It takes 11 days to run through the full list. When you go in you are given a card with the name of one of the actual service men or women and interactive technology allows you to follow their experience from recruitment, through training, the conflicts at Gallipoli, the Middle East and Western Front and, for those lucky enough to survive, their return home and adjustment back into society. My hero was called Sergeant Alfred Foster, he spent a lot of time as a stretcher bearer and thankfully lived into his nineties.

Another aspect to our visit to this National Treasure was to visit the special centenary display called Field of Light at the Avenue of Honour. Here 16,000 green, white and yellow fibre optic lights come on at dusk symbolising the national flowers of Australia and New Zealand and the troops that did not make it home. We were only able to stay until the first splashes of green appeared as we had a half hour cycle back to camp on bikes we haven’t fitted lights to (yet).

One of Scotland’s National Treasures is its whisky. Mike tried a couple of the award winning whiskies at Limeburners Distillery but they didn’t make it into the shopping basket on this occasion.

We’re off to Denmark next and the ‘Wow Trail’!

+8 Hours Precisely

Meridian 120 Degrees

Western Australia Standard Meridian Marker

In the last blog I was explaining that the different time zones were confusing us. Not so this week. We crossed the baseline for Western Australia Standard Time at the Meridian of 120 degrees East longitude meaning we were ahead of GMT by exactly 8 hours!

Whilst Esperance’s Pink Lake is no longer pink, the turquoise sea along the Twilight Beach Road more than made up for this. What a cycle ride.

We enjoyed a visit to the Mermaid Leather factory where discarded fish skin is turned into luxury leather goods. Our token purchase was a fridge magnet and a shark skin hair clip! Some other shopping experiences this week were not quite so successful: such as the local fish shop that didn’t open during opening hours, the Op Shop (Charity Shop) that people come from miles around to visit that only opened Wednesday and Saturday mornings (we missed it), the coffee shop that was only serving instant coffee as their machine had broken down and the much acclaimed restaurant serving wood fired pizzas (but only on Saturdays)! Good job Gnornbup Winery was open. We got to sample two sparkling, three whites, three reds and two fortifieds (ports) before settling on a Sauvignon Blanc and a lovely Ploughman’s Nip to add to our shower cellar!

Mermaid Leather

Genuine Fish Leather

Esperance provided the venue for our first campervan dinner party. Our guests actually brought along most of the food whilst we provided the Christmas tree (talking point) plus plastic crockery and wine! Karen and Chris are another English/Scottish couple doing a lap of Australia in a motor home and we have been following their blog since they set off in March. We always hoped we’d get to meet up somewhere along the journey as they are going round anti-clockwise. Shame we hadn’t heard about Cape le Grand before they told us about it as it sounds like it would have been a great place to visit – oh well next time!!!

The insect repellent recipe using Dettol and baby oil has not been a great success. First time I applied it Mike said “What’s that smell?” Yes, it was me, I smell like a toilet! Fly nets are working a treat!

No Flies On Us!

No Flies On Us!

We have previously shared tales of our cycling adventures on the Riesling Trail and the Shiraz Trail. We have also been on the Oyster Trail. This week it was the Snail Trail (poor snail, long way to the shops!) and the Jesus Trail (if you can walk on water)!

Continuing to move westwards, we moved on to Bremer Bay. The Main Beach isn’t much to shout about but some of the little bays accessible by bike or on foot were lovely.

Next week we’re heading off into the National Parks so for a change it may not be quite so many photographs of beaches!


This week’s adventure has been to travel across the infamous Nullarbor Plain from Ceduna in South Australia across to Norseman in Western Australia – a distance of 1,180 kms or 773 miles. In true pootling style we took our time and did it over four days but it could have been done in two. Horror stories of gas stations running out of fuel and there being nothing much to see was not our experience. Fuel was plentiful (if expensive) and there was lots to see along the way as this blog will illustrate!

N is for No Trees or Nullus Arbor
Strictly speaking there are lots of trees going across the Nullarbor, but there is a treeless area as captured in the following changing vegetation sequence.

U is for Unknowns
Two things we weren’t prepared for. The first was the Quarantine Restrictions. We thought we had it sussed now in terms of fresh fruit, vegetables and honey and had used all of these up in advance. It came as quite a surprise to learn from a lovely couple we met in Ceduna that our supply of nuts and rice would have to vanish which was especially annoying as we’d only just replenished them! We couldn’t have donated our nuts to a nicer couple though (welcome to the Blog V & J) and ended up cooking all the rice!!! The Quarantine official who came into our van and checked inside the fridge, freezer and larder cupboards thankfully wasn’t that thorough as I suspect we might also have had to part with our frozen prawns!

The other unknown was how much of a time difference there was between SA and WA. At the other side of the Quarantine Station there was a police patrol. The policeman said “Good Morning” to which Mike corrected him with a “I think it is Good Afternoon”. “Not here mate” said the guy “It’s 10.45 in the morning” and then promptly asked Mike to blow into the breathalyser machine!!! We actually thought the time difference was a mere half an hour behind SA. It turned out to be 1 hour 15 minutes difference for the first few hours of driving and then changed again by another 45 minutes – making a total of two and a half hours difference – something we’re still adjusting to!

L is for Learner Driver and
L is for Longest Road
I always said I’d give driving the van a go when the roads were quieter and not too twisty. Well I got my opportunity driving Australia’s longest straight road – only trouble was every time I got into the driving seat it rained and so I had to operate the wipers as well!!! I did actually enjoy the experience although I’m not quite ready for towns or reverse parking!

A is for Ancient Things
Although we couldn’t get down the road to the Eucla Telegraph Station Ruins, we did see the original Nullarbor Roadhouse and visited the Balladonia Museum to learn some amusing facts. For example, when they brought the first camels ashore in 1894 they did not know for certain whether they could swim, so one was dropped overboard. It promptly rolled onto its side and swam to shore, leading the way for the remainder! The only camel we saw was the stuffed version in the museum although a local man told us there were still around 200 roaming around the place.

The other interesting fact was that a trail of space debris was scattered across this part of Australia in 1979 when a US satellite burned up on re-entry and crashed. American President, Jimmy Carter, rang the Balladonia Roadhouse to extend his apologies. A few days later the largest piece of debris was exhibited on stage at the closing ceremony of the Miss Universe contest in Perth – unfortunately the stage collapsed under the weight!!!

Also on show were a pre-Second World War Boiler, a wool press and a replica RedeX Round Australia Reliability Trial car. An eclectic mix if ever!

R is for Road Trains
Mistakenly we thought the roads would be fairly empty of traffic. The roads were not busy by UK standards but we were surprised by the number of road trains hurtling along. The only thing we overtook was cyclists!

B is for Bight
That is the Great Australian Bight. No whales to be seen unfortunately but the Bunda Cliffs are spectacular along this marine conservation area.

O is for Orange Sunsets
Even after a thunder and lightening storm the sky turned orange.

R is for Roadhouses and Rest Areas
This was our first Roadhouse experience. Roadhouses are a bit like our Service Stations in the UK – expensive fuel, meals, shop and motel. When we booked into the Caravan Park we were told about Happy Hour between 4 and 5 p.m. Not wanting to be unsociable we duly wandered over and the only other people in the bar were a couple of bikers and two guys playing pool. I felt my namesake – a right Sheila!!!

The next two nights we made use of Jura’s onboard self contained facilities and stayed in beautiful Rest Areas. These were large areas off the highway you could park up overnight. They came with concrete picnic tables, drop toilets and wonderful sunsets – all for free!

We have now been on the road for over 100 days. We haven’t achieved anything like as much as a certain Mr T did in his first 100 days of office but we’ve had a lot of fun and there’s been heaps of learning.